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Conspiracy (McLeod)

From the Royal Arch Mason magazine, 20.1 (Spring 1998), pages 28-29.

By Wallace McLeod

Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From, by Daniel Pipes. New York: Free Press (A division of Simon and Schuster). 1997. Pages xiii, 258. List price, $25.00.  Copies may be ordered from The Free Press, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

This book, written by a Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses “conspiracy theories — fears of nonexistent conspiracies.”  You know the type of thing. President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. The disease AIDS was created in a laboratory in order to infect Black people. The UFO crash near Roswell has been covered up. There are still many “conspiracists;”  people like evangelist Pat Robertson, who wrote about The New World Order in 1991, and Lyndon LaRouche, who campaigned to have the statue of Albert Pike removed.

Mr Pipes traces this type of neurosis back to the time of the Crusades. Two particular groups of people seem to have been suspected even in those early days: first, the Jews, because they were perceived as “Christ-killers,” allied to the Muslims; and then, the Knights Templar, for their secretive nature and their unaccountable riches.

The theories really began to flourish at the time of the French Revolution. In 1791, Father Lefranc wrote a book called The Veil Lifted, in which he blamed the Revolution on the Freemasons.  The Jews were not implicated in this particular plot until 1806. Ever since that time, we have had tales of the international Masonic-Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia came to power and maintained themselves by talking about the conspiracies against them. Since the deaths of Hitler and Stalin, the theories have become a bit less powerful, but are still espoused by many of those who feel excluded from power.

The material is so extensive that Pipes can only provide a rapid survey, but in general his account is accurate and well annotated. He writes with clarity and common sense. The book is worth our notice, because he mentions the Masons more than two hundred times, and of course rejects any notion that they are conspirators.

Often those who believe in such theories make bizarre assertions. My favorite here is a quotation from the New York Times for last year, when one of the downtrodden said, “Tito was a Mason and so is the Pope and all the Catholic bishops.  After Mahatma Gandhi was killed, Tito became the head of the Masons” (page 112). All very entertaining! (The reviewer is grateful to Professor John McLeod for calling this book to his

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